WASHINGTON – The U.S. should consider tougher penalties against Iran's government and "be doing everything we can to bring it down," Condoleezza Rice said Sunday.
As Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul argued on "Fox News Sunday" that sanctions should be removed altogether to get Iran to act differently, the former secretary of state under George W. Bush told ABC's "This Week" that the U.S. should never take the option of military force off the table when it comes to dealing with Iran.
Calling the Iranian regime "the poster child for state sponsorship of terrorism," Rice said one way to confront Iran would be to remain in Iraq. U.S. forces are scheduled to vacate by year's end after the Obama administration could not negotiate a new Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government..
"This is one of the downsides of having our forces out of Iraq, because we can confront the Iranians in Iraq," Rice said. "Frankly, I think it would help the regional balance to have a residual American presence there. We need to find a way to help the Iraqis sustain themselves through this period and to -- to deal with their somewhat meddlesome neighbor in Iran."
But Paul said using violence against the Iranians would "undermine our security" and do nothing to add to Israel's security, but rather increase threats from other places.
The International Atomic Energy Agency is scheduled this week to release a report on Iran's nuclear efforts. Reportedly, the U.N. watchdog will show that Iran is getting closer to a "nuclear break out," where it has all the elements and skills to assemble a nuclear weapon.
Diplomats have also told The Associated Press that the IAEA will disclose intelligence suggesting Iran made computer models of a nuclear warhead. Iran insists its nuclear program is only for peaceful aims such as energy production.
Rice said the Iranian government is trying to get a nuclear weapon and represses its people.
"The regime has absolutely no legitimacy left," she said.
But Paul said the U.S. response to Iran's nuclear pursuits is an "overreaction," especially considering that Iran has been saying for 10 years that it is seeking nuclear power for peaceful purposes and neither the U.S. nor the international community has never proven otherwise.
Paul added that a House bill that passed out of the international relations committee last week increasing sanctions on Iran is an aggressive weapon.
The bill says "if any other country, even if an ally, does any trading with Iran, we're going to punish them. So, that is -- when you put on strong sanctions, those are acts of war because we did that in Iraq for 10 years, and little kids died, could [not] get medicines and food. It led to war," Paul said.
Paul said a better art of persuasion would be to offer friendship, the way the U.S. approached the Soviets and Chinese.
"I was in the military during the '60s and it was dangerous. But we didn't think we have to attack the Soviets. They had capabilities. The Iranians can't make enough gasoline for themselves.
For them to be a threat to us or to anybody in the region I think is just blown out of proportion," he said.
Paul, who won Illinois' straw poll of Republican presidential candidates over the weekend and ranks third in many polls of the field, said he is not an isolationist as some charge, but instead wants a very open relationship around the world that does not involve having U.S. troops deployed in foreign places.
"By having too many troops, it helps to bankrupt our country, the wars that we have been fighting, that were undeclared -- and from my viewpoint is unconstitutional and illegal," he said, arguing that the last 10 years of war has cost $4 trillion in fighting as well as debt accrued to be paid to other nations.
Paul added he also opposes drone strikes because of the collateral damage it causes and enmity it builds.